Identify or select a performance problem in a business activity that you believe could be resolved or substantially improved by the acquisition of IT services performed by a contractor selected in open competition as a result of a Request For Proposal (RFP). The acquisition of IT services may also include the acquisition of IT software and hardware, as needed. Document your performance problem as Activity 1 using Template 1. (See Template 1-Activity 1 Performance Gaps below)
Template 1-Activity 1 Performance Gaps
Why do you need to select a business performance problem that will require the acquisition of IT services (and products as needed) from an external IT services contractor? It is the most important form of IT acquisitions. It involves the largest investments and is instrumental in transforming organizations and achieving competitive advantage. At the same time, it presents the greatest risk, with the probability of project failure increasing as the size and complexity of the projects increase. On the other hand, IT hardware and software acquisitions that do not involve services are usually “commodity purchases” (as explained below) and lack the challenges and complexity of acquisitions that involve IT services. The templates used in this course are for IT acquisitions that include IT services. They are not meant for use with IT commodity purchases.
Commodity Purchases. Commodity purchases from vendors usually come with incidental services, such as installation and certain support services. These do not qualify as “contractor services.” An IT product is considered a “commodity” when there is a common definition of the good, the contracts for its purchase are for the most part standardized, and there are common qualities or service levels associated with the good. (On the other hand, your problem can require the selection of a contractor–via an RFP–that, for example, helps your organization identify, evaluate, decide on, and implement one or more IT commodity products.)
For example, going out and buying a printer is a commodity purchase. Buying 20 laptop computers is a commodity purchase. Buying 15 copies of a software application is a commodity purchase. The decision to buy the commodity means that the problem has been solved and the commodity is the solution. However, hiring an IT contractor to help design a system, acquire the hardware and software needed by the system, and assist in implementing the system is NOT a commodity purchase. It is the acquisition of IT services.
Although you must select a performance problem that requires the services of an external contractor, you will not be asked to prepare a RFP for an external contractor. Instead, you will prepare a basic performance-based work statement–the heart of an RFP–using one of the templates provided.
What Not To Select. Since the solution to your problem must require the services of an IT contractor who is (theoretically) to be selected in open competition as the result of an RFP, there are certain types of problems you should not select.
- Do not select a problem that can be solved with better internal management or a different use of internal resources, such as using the organization’s programmers to develop or modify certain software systems.
- Do not select a problem that can be solved by adding to the tasks of a current contractor.
- Do not select a problem that can be solved by your organization making its own commodity purchase from a vendor (e.g., a server, Internet service) without the involvement of a contractor selected in open competition after issuing an RFP.
Real Rather Than Fictitious. The problem should be real and for a real organization you are with now or one that you know about. It is recommended that you use a real organization as the context for your project so that the realities of the organization, including the constraints it must contend with, can be taken into account in planning your project. Basing an individual project on a fictitious organization provides no real world challenge since there are no real constraints. There is no need to identify the organization and do not divulge confidential information or information that the organization might find objectionable for you to reveal. Further, you only need to obtain data that are readily available. For data that are not readily available, reasonable estimates will do.
Three-Month Rule. A rule of thumb is to select a problem requiring an IT acquisition project that spans at least three months (though it can be much longer). The idea is to keep the size of the project from being no larger than needed for you to gain the insights from using the acquisition templates but not so small that it will make using the templates trivial and meaningless. Projects shorter than three months generally fall into the latter category. The problem should be such that the organization would be sufficiently concerned with the cost, risk, and need for success that it will go through the various acquisition steps, including competition among contractors (sources), in order to control cost, manage risk, and increase the likelihood of success.
Guidance in Using the Templates. Your individual project will use a total of 12 best practice templates/models involving activities ranging from requirements definition to preparation of a performance-based statement of work. You will be given explanations and, in most cases, examples, of how to use the templates to perform your individual project activities. These are activities that are key in IT acquisition projects.
Examples of Problems Selected by Other Students. Here are some examples of problems that past students have addressed with their individual projects:
- Problem of membership maintenance (club, church, etc.)
- Problem of controlling financial contributions
- Lack of an effective activity reporting system (e.g., for employees)
- Lack of a PowerPoint slides management and inventory system in a large organization
- Need for a better forecasting system of recruitment needs
- Problem of tracking and reporting production
- Problem of preparing accurate and timely reports
- Problem of sharing real-time information with key persons
- Problem of timely analysis of data
- Problem of selectively distributing analytical reports to groups
- Problem of tracking loans
- Problem of controlling access to computer services
- Chronic inability to test computer software as planned
- Problem of effectively managing assets
- Problem of controlling large numbers of documents
- Problem of gathering and integrating information quickly against deadlines
- Problem of controlling electronic documents
- Problem of a slow network that is used for online training
- Problem of professional billing control for a group of lawyers (could be for any group)
Document Your Problem Selection. Document your problem selection using Template 1.